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Why Theatre?

archer10 / Flickr / Creative Commons

Some time ago, my producer, Fletcher Powell, asked me to write a few sentences on why theatre is necessary, which he then used to promote my commentary.

I've been thinking about it ever since. Why do we go to the theatre? Why is theatre necessary? What do we stand to gain from the art, and what do we stand to lose if we turn away from it?

As with any art, the urge to create is bound up with the desire to communicate, to make a connection with another mind and heart. The CGI in your latest favorite sci-fi, superhero or action film is art, but on stage, something special happens between the cast and the audience. Any actor will tell you that a “good” audience makes the difference between an adequate performance and a great one. When a connection is made, the actors can feel the audience listening and reacting. It is a nearly tangible thing. When the audience is with you, they laugh harder, and they cry harder. And that's why theatre is necessary.

We go to the theatre when we are happy and want to enjoy ourselves. We go to the theatre when we are sad and need the relief of catharsis. We go to the theatre to understand that while we live our lives in the particular, we are brothers and sisters under the skin. And we go to the theatre to watch the magic that occurs when a group of people create a new world for us, strange yet still familiar, and characters that are us, dressed in different particulars.

We go to the theatre. I believe we always will.